OAHU: The Gathering Place
Who should go: Those of you who want to relax, stroll the beach at sunset, dine sumptuously, experience history, and don't mind some company.
Pack: Sundresses, casual and fancier eveningwear, golf (and more golf) attire.
Minimum stay: Two days.
What you should know: Oahu offers the most recognizable and accessible Hawaii experience. Many visitors never leave the bounds of Waikiki. What with a plethora of fine restaurants, plenty of shopping, unending sunshine, and Diamond Head crater as the backdrop to your photos, who needs to spend time in a rental car? You do, because there's plenty of island to explore once you rouse yourself from your lounge chair.
Military history buffs should visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial, as well as Punchbowl, the National Cemetery of the Pacific. Downtown Honolulu has its thriving Chinatown, arts district, and Aloha Tower Marketplace (great for lunch or happy hour). Drive over the Pali Highway and you'll come to the sleepy, sultry town of Kailua and beautiful Lanikai Beach, with the Moku Lua Islands bobbing in the pure sea-green water.
Oahu's famous North Shore is worth visiting any time of year. Arrive hungry at Kua'aina Burgers in the village of Haleiwa, then follow it with "shave ice" at Matsumoto's across the street. Take care when swimming at the North Shore, because even in the summer when the surf is generally calmer, the ocean can exert its dominance. An excellent spot to swim and sunbathe is Waimea Bay. If you want to hear the drums beat and see the dancers sway, plus learn about Pacific Island peoples, plan a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie. Then, get your okolehau back to Waikiki; your sunset is waiting.
HAWAII: The Big Island